As products of the same conglomerate, there’s more than a touch of sibling rivalry between the Cactus and 2008, but if you’re in the market for a bulky budget family runabout, which should you buy? We’re pitting them against each other to find out.
It almost seems odd to say this, but the Peugeot 2008 is a little conservatively styled. The current, chrome rimmed corporate fascia is a step back from generations that heavily featured the rampant lion and the design flourishes there are seem a little fussy, namely the notched headlights, the concave wrap-around taillights and the chrome flash above the rear door. Tacked on to a pretty generic shape that gives off something of a hint of Suzuki SX4 with a colour palette that never really troubles much of the spectrum it’s all verging on the conventional.
That’s not a word that can be applied easily to the C4 Cactus. Even disregarding the “Airbump” bubblewrap down the sides it’s loaded with nice design touches that you can’t quite believe have made it to a production car – and a really affordable one at that. The wrap-around effect of the glass in particular is excellent and Citroen has eschewed the trend for giant Audi-style front grilles in favour of a curvy front end. The rear isn’t a tour de force, however, and, depending on your colour choice for the Airbump panels, the C4 Cactus can look like it’s wrapped around a Volvo V50 at the front, but you won’t lose it in a car park. The Cactus wins on startle factor alone.
Interior and practicality
Aesthetically, there’s nothing to complain about in either car here – both are nice places to be, though obviously a little less opulent in entry-level trims. Citroen has taken an unusual route in relocating major vehicle functions to the infotainment system to minimise switchgear and also dispensing with a mechanical binnacle – it’s another LCD screen – whereas the Peugeot retains the traditional dials.
Moving around the cabin you won’t find any particular differences in living space, with just about the same leg and headroom and luggage space. The most significant change is that the 2008 has a split-folding rear seat and the Cactus does not, making it a little less practical if you’re going down to B&Q with children on board.
There’s a healthy chunk of engine sharing going on here, unsurprisingly. Both cars get to use the PSA Group 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol and 1.6-litre diesel engines, at 82hp and 92hp respectively, although the Peugeot has a version of the diesel in a higher 115hp state of tune too, and the Citroen has a couple of alternative versions of the petrol at 75hp and 110hp respectively.
It’s the Peugeot you should look at if you’re after power. Alongside that 115hp diesel, it also has a 1.6-litre petrol available producing 120hp, but it doesn’t net the best reviews and the more modern three-cylinder in the Citroen is quicker off the mark despite a 10hp deficit.
The Cactus also shows the best economy figures – it gets a claimed 86mpg combined from the 1.6-litre BlueHDI diesel engine.
With similar underpinnings, you can expect the two cars to drive pretty much alike and you wouldn’t be wide of the mark. Neither car is the cutting edge of dynamism, but they are light and easy to drive with the steering feel one should come to expect from the French marques by now. When we drove the Cactus back in July it was relaxing and, unlike the vogue in modern cars, has a comfortable ride not quite on the level of the pneumatic Citroens of old but a long way from today’s Nurburgring-honed offerings.
A caveat for both cars comes in the shape of the ECG automatic gearbox, which is still cumbersome and jerky.
Value for money
The stablemates start out at just about the same price – there’s a fiver’s difference in it – at just under £13,000. That bears repeating, because both cars undercut any Ford Focus by £1,000, coming in at the same price as a bargain basement Vauxhall Astra.
There’s a little give-and-take on the specs at this level: the base Cactus has that big seven-inch touchscreen and the 2008 doesn’t, but the base 2008 has air conditioning and the Cactus doesn’t. We’ll call it a draw, all things considered. As you rattle up the trims though, the Cactus noses ahead with slightly better equipment levels pound for pound by comparison.
Platform siblings they may be but, driving experience aside, the 2008 and C4 Cactus are different prospects. The Peugeot is, almost alarmingly considering its roots, pretty mundane – almost like a rushed answer to a question first posed by the Nissan Juke. The C4 Cactus is a more carefully planned approach and it hits the targets better than either car.
Throw us the keys to both and we wouldn’t even catch the Peugeot ones – it’d be the C4 Cactus every time.